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Intellasia East Asia News – House forms special mini-committee to address budget concerns

Speaker Martin Romualdez formed a special “small committee” composed of administration and opposition officials as well as members of the House of Representatives to address concerns about the national budget for 2023 approved last Wednesday.

Presiding over the session, Romualdez designated House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe and Reps. Zaldy Co and Stella Luz Quimbo from the super majority coalition, and House Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan from the opposition bloc.

Romualdez, who represents the first district of Leyte, announced in plenary session Wednesday night that the small committee will take charge of “individual amendments” that may be raised by congressmen, if ever there will be any.

The move was approved by administration lawmakers, by a vote of 289-3 with no abstention, where House Bill 4488, or the general Appropriations Bill (GAB) 2023, was approved on second and third reading “subject to the amendments of the small committee, if any.”

“The expeditious passage of the 2023 budget is the product of the collective effort of the entire House, in transparent and open proceedings where the majority accorded ample opportunity for the constructive inputs of our friends from the minority bloc,” he declared.

Romualdez said the House-approved budget for 2023 remains consistent with the eight-point socio-economic agenda of the administration of President Marcos to achieve sustainable growth.

With the approval of GAB on third and final reading Wednesday, the House met its self-imposed deadline to terminate the deliberations on the proposed 2023 budget prior to the adjournment of session from October 1 until November 6.

Independent opposition legislator Rep. Edcel Lagman didn’t join the three lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc who voted “no” to the approval of the GAB, which was transmitted to the Senate for the senators’ concurrence.

“I vote yes to HB 4488,” the Albay congressman said, reassuring that “judiciousness and frugality will be observed in the allocation of confidential and intelligence funds.”

“A speedy approval of the GAB is critical to avoid the reenactment of the 2022 GAA because a reenactment is too advantageous for the Chief Executive who would have at his disposal two budgets the reenacted 2022 GAA and the eventual 2023 GAA,” he said.

Other reasons he cited were “amendments effected appropriating adequate funding for the construction of Freedom Memorial Museum in honor of human rights victims, augmentation for CHR budget, libreng pasahe and pantawid pasada programmes.”

Reps. Raoul Manuel, Arlene Brosas and France Castro of party-list groups Kabataan, women’s group Gabriela and ACT Teachers, respectively, however believe that the P5.268 trillion national budget for 2023 is laden with pork barrel funds not just for Congress, but for Marcos as well.

Manuel, a neophyte militant lawmaker, flagged the P149 billion allocation for the lump sum tagged as Support for Infrastructure Projects and Social Programmes (SIPSP) in the 2023 spending budget.

“This is the largest version of pork that the Philippines has seen in recent history,” he said.

“This does not yet have an identified fund source. But once funding is secured, it is the executive branch, not the legislative, which will have discretion as to what projects or programmes will earn funding from SIPSP. This evades the power of the purse that is delegated to Congress,” Manuel remarked.

For her part, Assistant Minority Leader Brosas of Gabriela questioned the practice of disbursing funds to unprogrammed appropriations, claiming it weakens the congressional power of the purse.

During the period of interpellation on the Department of Budget and Management, she revealed that the disbursement of funds for the P588.1 billion unprogrammed appropriations for next year will be under the discretion of the DBM.

Senate approves OVP budget

Meanwhile, the Senate committee on finance approved yesterday the proposed P2.3 billion budget for the Office of the vice President, and even eyed an additional budget for its permanent home.

Vice President Sara Duterte was present at the Senate when it approved the budget for her office.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri appealed for courtesy on the passage of the budget of OVP, saying, “Time and time again whenever there is budget deliberation of OVP, we always support whoever the VP may be because it is a very important office. I am appealing to my colleagues that we give the same courtesy.”

Zubiri described Duterte as a hardworking VP and her programmes would surely benefit the people and that the budget requested by her office is just right.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the vice President and future vice presidents should be given a permanent home, noting that the OVP is just renting an office in Quezon City.

“You know the feeling of not having a permanent home. We (Senate) don’t have a permanent home being an important institution and the OVP is also an important institution. We need to take steps to have a permanent home, not only the Senate but also an office like that of the OVP,” Gatchalian said in Filipino.

“I support the budget and P10 million is obviously not enough so we will support an additional budget so that we will have a permanent home for the VP and the future VP to come,” he added.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III questioned the significant increase in the OVP budget from P5 million to P500 million. “From P5 million in one year but now P500 million in a year, so may we know how we are to answer the questions asked of us. How to justify this item?”

Duterte said since 2003 there were intelligence and confidential funds granted to the OVP.


Category: Philippines

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